The Olympus Trip is a cutesy, mostly metal 35mm camera that was originally produced from the late 60s to the mid 80s. It boasts a four element, fixed 40mm f2.8 Tessar lens, which packs a far better punch than you might expect from such a small package.
The camera is most commonly found in a silver/grey colour with black leatherette – though as it’s become more popular there are frequently examples up for sale with brightly coloured leather replacements. There is also a all black version which looks very cool, but which is much rarer – and therefore costs a lot more.
I picked up a Trip 35 a number of years ago after an unfortunate incident involving my Lomo LC-A and a great expanse of water, which left the built in meter sadly unreliable. I wanted a small point and shoot film camera that I could throw in my bag and use for snaps, and whilst the Trip wasn’t as pocketable as the LC-A, it still ticked a lot of boxes.
- Fixed lens – 40mm f2.8.
- Filter thread – A rather unusual 43.5mm size.
- Zone Focus System – Similar to that found on the Lomo LC-A and others. Rather than focussing through the viewfinder, you basically guess the distance of your subject by eye, and pick one of a few rough options.
- Auto Exposure – The exposure system is fully automatic, with both shutter and aperture selected by the camera. You can select an aperture manually, which will then fix the shutter speed at 1/40. In fully Auto mode, if there isn’t enough light for a scene, a small red plastic flag will pop up, and the shutter physically will not depress.
- Shutter Speeds – Just two. Either 1/40 or 1/200.
- ISO Range – 25 to 400.
- Flash Options – both a hotshoe and synch port are available.
The ISO range of the camera might seem limited at first, but in reality this isn’t a camera that you’re ever going to use in low light (though some weirdos do). It’s the kind to whip out at family BBQs and day trips to the beach – where 400 is more than adequate. It makes even more sense when considered in its historical context (25 for Ektachrome, etc).
For me, the shutter speed limitation is more of an issue, as 1/40 feels a tad too slow to handhold without getting at least some blur – be it from the subject or myself moving. However, in practice I haven’t really had much of an issue there – but it’s still a bit of a mental blocker.
Another thing to note is that the red flag situation which prevents the shutter from taking pictures when the camera thinks there isn’t enough light can either be a really useful feature, or a really annoying one – depending on your perspective. Sometimes I am convinced there is enough light, and that the camera’s meter is just being tricked by the current scene’s lighting, but it refuses to let me proceed. I like to be in control, and don’t really want to be told what to do – especially not by some budget compact camera(!)… so that can be irritating, but you can apparently get round this by pointing the camera at a different light source, then half pressing the shutter in a sort of manual metering/compensation process. Something I’ve not bothered a whole lot with.
Cost and Availability
There are plenty of Olympus Trip 35s available on eBay and the like, so for now finding one isn’t going to be difficult. Cost wise, the prices have gone up since a few years ago, when you would regularly see them for £10-20. Nowadays they are more likely to be at the £30+ mark, with good condition examples going for over £80. Personally, I think the latter prices are a bit of a rip off, though the hike was probably inevitable given the increase in popularity of the camera over time. It all depends what it is worth to you, and how much you’ll use it, but paying anything over £40 would be way too much in my books.
Love and Attention
Light seal replacement
There don’t tend to be too many huge issues with these wee cameras, aside from worn out light seals… and unless you buy one of the more pricey examples (I wouldn’t bother), you are likely to have to replace the foam seals yourself. You can get kits on eBay for about a tenner which make the whole thing incredibly simple – just stick and go – though It seems like lots of people would rather not bother, so if you’re prepared to do this ten minute job, you can buy a ‘broken’ camera and give it a new lease of life, which is very satisfying.
There are times when you can’t be arsed lugging around lots of gear, or figuring out exposure. Times spent with friends during the summer when all you want to do is point and shoot, leaving the camera to do the thinking for you. Times where you want to leave the more expensive equipment at home, but still get pictures you’ll like. That’s where the Trip 35 lives up to its name. It’s a simple wee camera that you can fling in your bag and use without investing too much thought into what you are doing.
The bottom line is that shooting with the Trip 35 is just fun. It’s form factor is particularly pleasing in the hand, and taking pictures feels less of a chore or ‘serious business’ as it might do with other, more fully featured contraptions. Its lack of controls lets you focus on being present in the moment, rather than having the act of photography take over everything – and I like that. Despite all of its simplicity, the mostly metal build means that it feels sturdy and robust.
Realistically, I don’t shoot the Trip 35 all that often, and that’s a shame. Part of the issue is that while it is small, it isn’t quite as small as the LC-A, and so I often find myself gravitating towards ‘better’ cameras.
The pictures below were all shot with the same Olympus Trip 35